Recycling CO2 to generate renewable methanol

Since the Industrial Revolution, human activities have produced a 45% increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. The European institutions have challenged us to bring these emissions and other greenhouse gasses to net zero by 2050.

The majority of these emissions cannot be cut using conventional methods, because they are not directly related to the use of fossil fuel energies. Rather, most emissions are released during the chemical or physical transformation of materials, requiring a complete process change to eliminate them. The chemical industry is convinced that hydrogen, obtained through industrial electrification, presents a viable innovative approach to carbon-neutral production.

In the small town of Burghausen in South-East Germany, Wacker wants to put this vision into practice. The idea is to build a production complex that will produce renewable methanol on the basis of renewable hydrogen and recycled carbon emissions. These are both key starting materials for chemical products such as silicones and fuels. The project team envisions this innovative technology to become a pioneering step for the region in cutting emissions and in helping to meet the growing industrial demand for fossil-fuel free material.

What does that mean in practice?

The production of renewable methanol is a two-step process. A 20-megawatt electrolysis plant will first generate renewable hydrogen from water and renewable electricity. A synthesis plant will then combine this renewable hydrogen with an inevitable stream of CO2 at Wacker’s own site, capturing up to 22,000 metric tonnes of CO2 per year as raw material, to produce renewable methanol.

The synthesis plant’s expected capacity is 15,000 metric tonnes per year. Thanks to the efficient use of recycled CO2, the new process could completely avoid CO2 emissions, compared to current production methods.

If EU funding is granted, construction could begin as early as the start of 2023, with the plant potentially coming onstream before the end of 2025.

Associated SGD targets

UN SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
SDG Goal 13 Climate Action
SDG 17-PartnershipsForTheGoals